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Growth reference charts for use in the United Kingdom
  1. C M Wright1,
  2. I W Booth2,
  3. J M H Buckler3,
  4. N Cameron4,
  5. T J Cole5,
  6. M J R Healy6,
  7. J A Hulse7,
  8. M A Preece5,
  9. J J Reilly8,
  10. A F Williams9
  1. 1University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  2. 2Chairman of RCPCH standing Nutrition Committee
  3. 3University of Leeds
  4. 4Loughborough University
  5. 5Institute of Child Health, London
  6. 6Emeritus Professor, LSHTM
  7. 7BAPEM
  8. 8University of Glasgow
  9. 9St George's Medical School, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr C M Wright, Department of Child Health, Glasgow University, PEACH Unit, QMH Tower, Yorkhill Hospitals, Glasgow G3 8SJ, UK;


Since the introduction of new growth charts in the mid 1990s, there has been confusion about which charts should be used, with many districts using more than one version. Because of this uncertainty, an expert working party, the Growth Reference Review Group, was convened by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to provide guidance on the validity and comparability of the different charts currently in use. This paper describes the technical background to the construction and evaluation of growth charts and outlines the group's findings on the validity of each growth reference in relation to contemporary British children. The group concluded that for most clinical purposes the UK90 reference is superior and for many measures is the only usable reference that can be recommended, while the original Tanner–Whitehouse and the Gairdner–Pearson charts are no longer reliable for use at any age. After the age of 2 the revised Buckler–Tanner references are still suitable for assessing height. There are presently no reliable head circumference reference charts for use beyond infancy. The group propose that apart from refinements of chart design and layout, the new UK90 reference should now be “frozen”, with any future revisions only undertaken after careful planning and widespread consultation

  • growth
  • reference chart
  • BMI, body mass index
  • BT, Buckler-Tanner
  • GP, Gairdner-Pearson
  • RCPCH, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • TW, Tanner-Whitehouse
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  • A longer version of this paper is available on the RCPCH website at

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